The lengthy funeral of soul superstar Aretha Franklin went from reverent to downright angry Friday, as several speakers took the opportunity to lash out at U.S. President Donald Trump.
Civil rights activist, minister, and television host Al Sharpton got a standing ovation when he noted that viewers corrected him when he recently misspelled “respect” — the title of one of Franklin’s most famous songs — on the air recently. “Now I want y’all to help me correct President Trump to teach him what it means,” he said, as mourners rose to their feet.
Jesse Jackson, also a minister and civil rights activist, talked about Franklin’s rise to fame during the civil rights movement, saying, “Aretha came out of the bowels of our struggle.” He said President Trump won the vote in Michigan while some 100,000 Detroiters were not registered to vote. He said if anyone left the arena Friday without being registered, “you will dishonor Aretha.”
Author Michael Eric Dyson had the harshest words for the U.S. president, who recently claimed that Franklin had worked for him “on numerous occasions.” (Franklin had performed concerts on some Trump properties.) Dyson said, “This orange apparition had the nerve to say she worked for him. … You foolish fascist — she ain’t work for you. She worked above you. She worked beyond you. Get your preposition right.”
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton, comedian and entertainment mogul Tyler Perry, and legendary actress Cicely Tyson were also among those paying tribute to the legendary entertainer, who died Aug.16 of pancreatic cancer, at age 78.
“She lived with courage. Not without fear, but overcoming her fears,” Clinton said. “She lived with courage. Not without fear, but overcoming her fears. She lived with faith. Not without failure, but overcoming her failures. She lived with power. Not without weakness, but overcoming her weaknesses.”
Clinton spoke of her generosity of spirit and her willingness to acknowledge fellow musicians and performers who had not achieved her legendary fame. He also made sure to note: “she worked her can off.” [She worked as hard as she could.]
Perry joked that Franklin kept the heat in her dressing room “somewhere between 85 [degrees Fahrenheit] and double-hell.” More soberly, he noted, “When Aretha sang gospel, something happened. Something would shake the room. When Aretha sang gospel, something shifted.”
Cicely Tyson, at 93 the grande dame of African American actresses, said, “She spoke to us through her soul and everything she experienced. And that’s why no matter what she was singing, she moved every single person.”
Tyson ended her tribute with a recitation of “When Malindy Sings,” a classic poem by African American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar. She replaced “Malindy” with “Aretha.”
“And you find your tears ‘a-droppin,’” she said, “when Aretha sings.”
Franklin’s final days have been treated as a royal goodbye. During public viewings over the past week, her body was clad in four different outfits. Her casket was plated with 24-karat gold. Franklin’s name and the title “Queen of Soul” were embroidered into the champagne-colored velvet lining the interior.
Franklin’s casket rode in a white hearse that carried the body of her father, minister C.L. Franklin, in 1991 and civil rights leader Rosa Parks in 2005. She was to be buried — like Franklin, Parks, and the poet Paul Laurence Dunbar — in Detroit’s Woodlawn Cemetery. (VOA)